Sunday, 29 July 2012

A 15 year old curse has been broken.

Quick lamb curry

I did not blog on Friday because we had our excellent mate M around for dinner on Thursday night.

Yes, the two events are mutually exclusive.  I didn't think so either until it happened.

Due to some last minute playdating (Issy, not me) and another last minute decision to supplement the lamb curry with not just a golden syrup pudding but home made roti bread, any foolish little gaps in time (ie blogging opportunities) vanished into space.

The good news was both last minute decisions worked and we were able to eat both the pudding and the roti.  Which is a miracle because M is my hoodoo where cooking is concerned.

It started, in 1997 (yep, really) in Africa where Mike, M and I and 5 other hapless travellers met in Nairobi for the beginning of our 7 week African overland trip.  This trip is worth about another 5 posts in itself so I will spare you the graphic details (for now).

Our guide, foolish man that he was, had gotten it into his head that women can cook better than men.

With this insane idea in mind he sorted us into a roster of tasks.  As there were 3 girls and 5 boys he put each girl with a boy and then left the spare two boys out of the cooking roster entirely.  They were designated as "bag carriers".  This allowed them to get off the truck at every overnight stop, chuck our backpacks and our tent bags roughly on the same patch of ground and then open a beer.  In the morning they'd chuck our repacked backpacks and tent bags onto the truck and off we'd go (at 40km/hr, from Nairobi to Harare- yep, we needed every minute of those 7 weeks).

Anyways, M (who was travelling alone) got matched with a girl who until I met the most annoying woman in the world from last weeks post, was the most annoying person I've ever come across.  This post is not about her so I will not allow her the limelight but she was only 18, had just booked the trip a week before it started and had it paid for by Daddy (the rest of us had booked months ahead and scrimped and saved for it), was hopelessly underprepared and missing her boyfriend.

Needless to say, she couldn't cook.  Neither could I (without a packet mix sachet from Tescos-we'd just spent 2.5 years in the UK and I'd had to learn to cook for the first time) or M, who's mum (and I know this from experience) is a damn fine cook, he'd really never had the need to.

The truck.  In 1997.  Paul the misguided guide on far left.   Check out those reef sandals! 
When the first evening came and M and Lucy stood there waving sharp knives around in the vague direction of some tomatoes, the guide realised something was wrong and discovered their culinary limitations, reassigned M to Mike and Me to Lucy.

Good Lord.

Over the next 7 weeks Mike gently coaxed M into cooking some pretty good meals.  Because Mike is an excellent, inventive cook and a calm, well ordered personality.  And considering we often were dealing with a pile of vegetables and a freshly slaughtered chicken or worse, just a pile of vegetables, things were dire indeed.

On the flip side, because I am a panicky, anxiety stricken, impulsive person and Lucy was just plain irritating and useless, every time Lucy and I had to cook dinner (every 3 days for 7 weeks), it was a disaster.  Fast forward 15 years to Masterchef: Mike would nail the mystery box every time and I'd be sent home as an imposter before filming began.

Aaah happy pants.  Remember them? 
One night, faced with a selection of vegetables, I came up with the bright idea of cooking sweet and sour veges.  Great idea until I realised I'd only ever cooked sweet and sour with the assistance of a packet or jar and had no idea of what it actually consisted of.  Except pineapple.

Epic fail.  Vegetable sludge, heavy on the pineapple.  

Or the time when all we had was potatoes and tomatoes.  The result wasn't pretty.  It was red and squelchy.  And to be honest, I still wouldn't know what to do with potatoes and tomatoes if they were the only things I had to create a meal with, for 8 people plus the guide and driver.   

I reckon even those Masterchef smart arses would struggle.

We put a stop to any notion of "bag carriers" after about a week and forced them into the cooking roster where they did (unsurprisingly) very well.  The guide was amazed.  He was a Kenyan guy, and pretty traditional.  That Lucy and I were by far the worst cooks on the tour and possibly the best candidates for "bag carriers" blew his mind.

Anyway, the tradition has continued over 15 years and every time I have been responsible for cooking a meal for M, it has failed.  If Mike gets involved or it's a family get together where we all bring something, it's fine.  It only happens when I fly solo.

Luckily M has married a genius cook/chef, who is also an excellent housekeeper.  So he eats well when he's not at our house.

But on Thursday night, I finally broke the curse.  Warm olives to start, hearty lamb curry with cous cous, home made roti bread and golden syrup pudding.  All delightfully edible.

On review it was a bit of a cultural mish mash (nicer people could call it a fusion of flavours), but we could eat it.  The curse is broken.  I am free.